Today in Texas History – July 16

From the Annals of the Border Wars –  In 1931, the “Red River Bridge War” reached a new level of confrontation when Gov. Ross Sterling ordered a detachment of Texas Rangers to prevent use of a newly constructed free bridge over the Red River.  The bridge which had been built by Texas and Oklahoma connected Denison and Durant, Oklahoma.  The problem arose when the Red River Bridge Company, which operating a toll bridge running next to the new bridge, filed suit in U.S. District Court seeking an injunction preventing the Texas Highway Commission from opening the bridge. The RRBC claimed breach of an agreement by the THC to purchase the toll bridge and damages for its unexpired contract as a condition for opening the new bridge.  The court granted a temporary injunction Sterling had barricades erected preventing access to the bridge from the Texas side.  Oklahoma Governor William (Alfalfa Bill) Murray claimed that Oklahoma’s “half” of the bridge ran lengthwise north and south across the Red River, that Oklahoma held title to both sides of the river from the Louisiana Purchase treaty of 1803, and that the state of Oklahoma was not named in the injunction. On July 16, Oklahoma highway crews crossed the bridge and took down the Texas barricades.  Sterling responded by ordering The Texas Rangers to rebuild the barricades and protect Texas Highway Department employees charged with enforcing the injunction.  In response, Murray ordered Oklahoma highway crews to tear up the northern approaches to the still-operating toll bridge closing traffic over the river.   The Texas Legislature resolved the controversy by  passing a bill granting the RRBC permission to sue the state in order to recover its damages.   This allowed the injunction to be dissolved and  the free bridge was opened to traffic, but not before some additional grandstanding by Murray who had declared martial law on both sides of the bridge.  The controversy ended with no shots fired and no injuries.

Photo from heralddemocrat.com

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